POSTED: 07:49 a.m. HST, Jan 22, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 09:56 p.m. HST, Jan 22, 2014
The peak of the largest swell in a decade began hitting the North Shore of Oahu this afternoon and could continue through the night, prolonging anxiety for some shoreline residents and building excitement for throngs of big-wave watchers.
The National Weather Service predicted 40- to 50-foot surf for north- and west-facing shores of Niihau and Kauai; and north-facing shores of Oahu, Molokai and Maui.
As of 1 p.m., surf rolling into Waimea Bay was recorded at 22 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
However, the largest of the swells still hasn't hit Kauai and Oahu's North Shore.
A buoy located more than 200 miles northwest of Oahu continues to record swells, said Bob Burke, National Weather Service meteorologist.
"This will occur into the overnight hours and decrease tomorrow," Burke said.
State and civil defense officials reported no major damage from the waves this morning.
Roads on all islands remain open with sand and surf lapping on to a few shore-front roads on Kauai and Oahu.
John Cummings, spokesman for the city Emergency Management Department, said volunteers began canvassing the shoreline on Oahu's North Shore this morning. State Civil Defense said there were no reports of damage on Kauai or Oahu today.
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However, city Ocean Safety lifeguards put up yellow tape on North Shore beaches from Alii Beach near Haleiwa to Sunset Beach, warning people to stay out of the water.
"Nobody has any business in the ocean," said Ocean Safety Lt. John Hoogsteden.
Even experienced surfers stayed out of the water as strong winds made the surf choppy and unrideable.
"Giant breaking surf" and dangerous currents will make it extremely hazardous to approach the shoreline, according to officials at the National Weather Service.
The gates to the Waimea Bay parking lot and nearby grassy area were closed this morning after surf started rolling into the parking lot. The state closed the beach park Tuesday night in anticipation of today's high surf and is expected to keep it closed through Thursday.
Cars lined the road to the parking lot early this morning causing major traffic headaches for motorists. Police had the cars towed.
At Alii Beach Park, Wailua resident Dora Doroha, 55, said: "This is awesome to watch. We haven't had big surf like this in a long time.
"It's cool watching this from a distance," said Doroha, who spent the morning taking photos of the big surf to send to her grandchildren in Oregon.
City officials reported sand and water running on to the highway at low spots fronting Haleiwa Harbor.
At Haleiwa Boat Harbor, Ryan Bruner, 34, a charter fishing boat employee, said: "Everybody pretty much tied up their boats as well as possible. Nobody's going out."
He said boat owners were using reinforcement lines and extra floats. Mariners were also helping each other out to protect their property.
"It's almost like a tsunami surge, but for a long period of time," he said.
At Rocky Point, where several North Shore homeowners have been battling beach erosion, high surf has torn down portions of a tarp at the sandy cliff below the beachfront home of Krystle and Kenneth Dombrowski on Ke Nui Road. The waves hit at 10:20 a.m., and 20 minutes later friends and neighbors replaced the tarp while surf lapped at the feet of the workers.
Roads remain open on Kauai, however, state civil defense officials said there were reports of waves washing over Weke Road on Kauai's north shore near Hanalei.
Surf began building rapidly just after midnight on Kauai and Niihau, and will remain above the warning level through Thursday night.
All north shore beaches, from Anahola to Kee Beach, on Kauai remained today closed until further notice.
The state also closed Waimea Bay and the Yokohama Beach section of Kaena Point State Park.
The high surf warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Friday. Areas covered under the warning:
Super swell of '69 proved destructive, deadlyThe last "swell of the century," which produced monstrous waves in Hawaii and the West Coast, occurred during the first week of December 1969, according to the website encyclopediasurfing.com.
Meteorologists later determined that the weather during the winter of 1969-70 was affected by a relatively weak El Ni?o, the mid-Pacific ocean-warming phenomenon that tends to produce bigger, stronger open-ocean storms.
The surfing website said that 39-foot surf hit the north shore of Kauai mid-afternoon on Dec. 1, 1969.
Beachfront residents along Oahu's North Shore were forced to evacuate. Sixty North Shore homes were destroyed or badly damaged over the proceeding 72 hours.
Kamehameha Highway was flooded, utility poles were knocked down and boats at Haleiwa Harbor were pushed inland.
Two people were swept from shore and drowned.
>> Surf for the north and west-facing shores of Niihau and Kauai, and north-facing shores of Oahu, Molokai and Maui: 40 to 50 feet.
>> Surf for the west-facing shores of Oahu and Molokai: 20 to 30 feet.
>> Surf for the west-facing shores of the Big Island: 12 to 18 feet.
Traffic started to build up on Kamehameha Highway on Oahu's North Shore as people drove to watch the high surf this morning.
Police reported that the water level in Haleiwa Boat harbor was rising as the height of today's surf was expected early this morning.
The same storm system causing the swell will also whip a cold front through the islands, bringing gusty southwest Kona winds, cloudy skies and locally heavy rainfall through Wednesday.
High winds caused several trees to fall closing a portion of Waialua Beach Road. Also, in the Wahiawa area, California Avenue is now closed in both directions between North Cane Street and Ihoiho Place due to downed power lines.
Reporter Rob Shikina contributed to this report.